NOTE: This is a guest post from Don Kraus, CEO of Citizens for Global Solutions, a groundbreaking national movement that supports responsible and cooperative U.S. foreign policy.
March 14, 2012 marks an extraordinary moment in world history. This morning, the International Criminal Court (ICC) completed its very first trial, convicting Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of forcing children to serve as soldiers in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than 74 million viewers have watched Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video, calling for the arrest and ICC trial of Joseph Kony. But few are aware that Lubanga, a man as despicable as Kony, has laid the groundwork for the kind of trial that Joseph Kony surely deserves.
During the trial, witnesses detailed how Lubanga and his men forced child soldiers to rape, kill and plunder. Commanders abducted children and forced them to commit terrible acts, including killing their parents – acts designed to cut off the abducted children from their families and communities. Witnesses reported that young girls were abducted by Lubanga’s commanders to serve as their ‘wives’ and sexual slaves. Girls who were raped by commanders faced brutal violence, disease, forced pregnancy, and did not receive adequate medical care when needed.
Witness 229, a former child soldier and one of Lubanga’s victims, testified that he was abducted on his way home from school, drugged and forced to travel for days to a military training camp. During training, the children were forced to follow strict disciplinary rules. The witness testified,”Those who did not follow were punished. You would be whipped or put in prison. That’s how things worked.” When given the chance to talk about his time as a UPC soldier, Witness 229 said, “I didn’t enroll of my own volition…I was a schoolchild, I didn’t want to become a soldier.”
This verdict is a landmark moment, not only in the short history of the Court, but in the development of international law as a whole. For the first time in the history of humanity, nations have successfully come together and established a court to try individuals accused of the worst violations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC steps in when national courts are destroyed or unable to handle the case, or are deliberately shielding the accused from justice.
Photo by ICC-CPI/Michael Kooren
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